Behind Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona

Designed by Antoni Gaudi, Park Güell was a project that took 14 years to be constructed, from 1900. Gaudi had envisioned a themed park experience in Barcelona for visitors, more than a century ago from the present, five decades before the world had its first Disneyland in 1955.

Park Güell offers impressive vantage points with splendid views of the sea and the Plain of Barcelona. Originally intended to be private property for rich people, the plans did not take off as expected. The City Council purchased Park Güell in 1922 and opened it as a municipal park in 1926.

A colorful, creative and artistic place, Park Güell became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Unknown to me when I was visiting, Park Güell was designed to feature four broad themes, meant to be experienced progressively. I wished I knew this before visiting, it would have made the visit much more dimensional!

First Theme: Fairytales

Park Guell • The Petite WanderessOfficial websites refer to the two pavilions at the entrance as the porter’s lodge. At first glance, the only impression that came to my mind was gingerbread houses, yummy. According to an article posted by Viewport Magazine, Gaudi had watched Hansel and Gretel recently when he was designing the park – the influence is apparent.

Both structures have stunning roofs, built with traditional clay tiles that were covered with trencadis – a decorative kind of mosaic made using tile shards, which you will see is a significant decorative element of Park Güell.

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess

Second theme: Greek mythology

Park Guell • The Petite WanderessPark Guell • The Petite Wanderess

From the main entrance, visitors will climb up the grand stairway. Near the top of the stairs, a dragon / salamandar mosaic statue – just like the dragon python from Greek mythology – stands guard over a fountain. This dragon is popular. It’s near impossible to get a photo without having other tourists appear inside your photo.

The Hypostyle Room

At the top of the stairs is a designed space (temple) with almost a hundred Doric columns.

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess

“Hypostyle Room supports half of the Placa de la Natura (Nature Park) on eighty-six columns made from site rubble. Each of the columns coincides with one of the intersections of the sferical domes that allow rain water to be collected from the upper square and carried inside the columns to the reservoir located under the room.”
“Gaudi removed four columns, two consecutive ones along the central axis and another two to the left and right. At the points where the columns were removed, four prefabricated medallions of 2.4 metres diameter each were placed. They span the entire space between the four adjacent domes, are clad with trencadis and were made by the architect Josep Maria Jujol.”
(above quoted information was from banner on-site)

The Hypostyle Room was meant to be the market for the private estate. Look upwards when you’re there because you will discover surprises of art that Gaudi had incorporated into the ceiling.

Park Guell • The Petite WanderessPlaca de la Natura (Nature Square)

Partly dug into the mountain and partly held up by the Hypostyle Room, this open plaza once held all kinds of celebrations (this square is also known as The Greek Theatre). Surrounding the edge of this open area is a continuous bench that is world-famous. Salvador Dalí had referred to the bench as the precursor of surrealism.

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess

This continuous bench is decorated with beautiful trencadis – sometimes arranged purposefully, sometimes what appears to be random patterns. True to Gaudi’s thoughtfulness, the bench is ergonomic – he had a workman sit in soft plaster so he could recreate the anatomical curve accurately. It was very comfortable sitting on the bench!

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess
in love with these beautiful broken ceramics of trencadis

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess

Third theme: Nature

The next area of exploration consists of whimsical pathways, porticos, and columns that appear to be growing out of the earth. Play spaces are created from the creative blending of architectural features as well as the area’s natural aspects.

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess
Portico of the Washerwoman

Park Guell • The Petite WanderessPark Guell • The Petite WanderessPark Guell • The Petite Wanderess

The final theme: Spirituality

Unfortunately, I cannot write on the last theme as I have no memory of this area of the park at all?!? The landscape is supposed to be more rugged, the incline turns steeper. I probably left through a different exit as there’re various entry & exit points at Park Güell. For the last theme of Park Güell, Gaudi had intended the path’s visitor to feel as if one is on a religious pilgrimage. What an experience it would be!
Visited: Nov 2013
Additional sources: Park Guell’s website | Viewport Magazine (the best article I found about Park Guell)

Park Guell • The Petite Wanderess


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